Provincial Initiatives Support Indigenous Jobs and the Environment
Saskatchewan's Accelerated Site Closure Program (ASCP) has led to strong participation in two affiliated provincial programs, the First Nations Stewardship Fund and the Indigenous Business Credit Pool, which were announced in January 2021. Both programs were developed in partnership with the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Centre of Excellence and an Indigenous working group and funded through the federal government's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
"Over the last six months, these initiatives have created new opportunities for the oil and gas sector to develop meaningful business relationships with First Nations and Métis contractors and Indigenous communities across Saskatchewan," Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said. "Both programs are also significantly contributing to the overall success of the provincial Accelerated Site Closure Program."
The two initiatives, administered by the Centre of Excellence in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Resources, SaskBuilds and Procurement and the Saskatchewan Research Council, have been well-received by Indigenous leaders, communities and the oil and gas sector.
"The First Nations Stewardship Fund and the Indigenous Business Credit Pool have been progressing steadily over the last few months. It is important to see the licensees and our contractors taking advantage of opportunities to clean up and reclaim areas within our First Nations, as well as our Treaty and Traditional territories," Centre of Excellence President and CEO Sheldon Wuttunee said. "With a potential $50 million dollar spend available to First Nations communities and Indigenous contractors over the course of two years, we see this as an important investment into our Nations and Indigenous employees and families. The Centre of Excellence and the Indigenous Working Group will continue to support the programs and advocate for enhanced opportunities to protect our environment for the use and benefit of future generations."
"Reclamation work is a significant factor in the protection of the environment," Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Vice Chief Heather Bear said. "As such, the First Nation-led reclamation work is a step in the right direction and provides the First Nations in this province the opportunity for economic prosperity for themselves and their citizens. This work furthers our Nations' agendas of self-determination, as well as the protection of our Inherent and Treaty rights by ensuring that our citizens can practice their rights in a pristine environment."
The provincially administered Stewardship Fund is directing up to $20 million in federal ASCP funding for site closure work in First Nations communities with inactive wells. As of July 31, 2021, the program had issued $12.9 million in work packages on Reserve lands under the Stewardship Fund.
The provincially administered Credit Pool provides an additional $15 million in federal ASCP funding to participating oil and gas producers. It provides a program credit for future use where oil and gas producers engage eligible Fist Nations and Métis contractors. As of July 31, 2021, the Credit Pool had supported $1.9 million for eligible contractors. Uptake has been accelerating and, if fully utilized, the Credit Pool will support eligible First Nations and Métis contractors with up to $30 million.
"Our government first announced this funding last year as part of our commitment to protecting the environment and supporting workers as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis hit. This co-operative initiative with Indigenous communities to clean up inactive oil and gas wells and associated facilities will improve the health of our shared environment and communities," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland said. "This important work will help spur our economic recovery and protect jobs and the environment in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan."
"We're creating jobs, cleaning up our environment, and supporting the hardworking people in our oil and gas sector - including in First Nations and Métis communities," Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan Jr. said.
Indigenous participation in the ASCP program was occurring prior to the launch of the Stewardship Fund and the Indigenous Business Credit Pool. $2.7 million in work packages have been issued in First Nations communities outside the Stewardship Fund, and an estimated $3.3 million in work has also been completed or is underway by First Nations and Métis contractors outside the Credit Pool.
Launched in May 2020, the ASCP in Saskatchewan was created to administer up to $400 million in Government of Canada funding over two years through the federal COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, as part of $1.7 billion in total funding provided by the federal government to remediate orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Indigenous participation was a required component of the federal funding.
As of July 31, 2021, $263 million in contracts has been issued to 133 unique licensees under the provincial ASCP to engage Saskatchewan-based service companies in site closure work. More than $93 million has been paid to 576 Saskatchewan-based services companies for work completed under the program. The program has completed over 2,100 well abandonments and decommissions, 260 flowline abandonments, 16 facilities and over 3,300 site remediation and reclamation activities.